Friday, October 23, 2009

in the (vegan) kitchen with sillymortalmama.

okay, before we get started today i have to say that out of everything i make for family and friends, these next two recipes are ones that i get the most compliments on and the most requests for.

and they are both vegan. added bonus and go figure.

plus, coincidentally, they both throw off a little heat. not too much, just enough. and that's the trick and the art of vegan cooking. without all that blasted meat getting in the way, literally and morally in some cases, you really have a chance to highlight individual flavors and make them shine. or combine a lot of flavors for a symphony of taste. okay, that was a dippy metaphor but you get my drift.

and as another coincidence, this post will fulfill TWO promises of recipes i made and haven't yet delivered on. one that is only a week or so old. the other is, um, over two years old. and if you think that's bad just don't ever ask me to send you anything through the mail. or hold your breath if i tell you i am going to send you something. or expect to see it arrive at all. ever.

so this salad recipe, i know, salad? but bear with me. this is so good, so amazing, the flavors so fresh and wonderful, you really could start eating this and not stop. i've seen it happen. plus, it is an entire meal in and of itself which makes it doubly wonderful. and if that wasn't enough, just to gild the lily, this salad is sooooo beautiful. it is just gorgeous. like a veggie noodle jewel in the bowl. which makes it perfect for entertaining at barbecues, potlucks, or dinner at home sitting at the big picnic table in the yard. even more perfect is that you can make both the salad and the dressing ahead of time. and because there is a LOT of chopping, it's better if you do. just bag the chopped and sliced salad ingredients separately and combine when you're ready to serve. don't leave chopped/sliced veggies more than a day, though. and beware, the recipe makes a TON! but as you will soon see, you can tweak the amounts to suit your needs. or make it as is and eat the whole damn thing yourself.

Asian Noodle Salad (from Confessions of a Pioneer that she adapted from Jamie Oliver)

1 package linguine noodles, cooked, rinsed, and cooled*
1/2 to 1 head sliced Napa cabbage
1/2 to 1 head sliced purple cabbage
1/2 to 1 bag baby spinach
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
1 orange bell pepper, sliced thin
1 small bag mung bean sprouts
3 sliced scallions
3 peeled, sliced cucumbers**
LOTS of chopped cilantro, up to one whole bunch
1 can whole cashews, lightly toasted in skillet***

juice of 1 lime
8 TBS olive oil
2 TBS sesame oil
6 TBS soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 TBS fresh ginger, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 hot peppers or jalapenos, chopped
more cilantro-LOTS****

mix together all the salad ingredients. (it works best to use your hands to do the mixing. but don't let your guests see you doing this. they think it's gross.)

whisk together dressing ingredients and pour over salad. mix and serve on a platter. (i always make the dressing ahead of time. like a day or so. the flavors are so much better when they've had a chance to mingle. the dressing will keep up to three days in the fridge before serving, WITHOUT the cilantro. add that to the dressing right before serving)

cook's notes:
*i toss the drained linguine with olive oil. makes it MUCH easier to work with.
**i never use cucumbers. i love them, i just forgot them the first time and the salad seemed so jam packed already. but i bet they'd be good.
***i buy cashews in bulk. be sure to get the toasted and salted ones. and even though they are already toasted, don't skip on heating them up in the skillet. it really brings out another level of flavor. i don't know how much a can holds, but i end up using about a cup or so. sometimes i break them up, sometimes i don't. the recipe doesn't say to, but i mix the salad and the dressing together first and then sprinkle the cashews on top.
****i LOVE the cilantro in the salad, but i never use it in the dressing. mainly because i make it ahead and then i forget to add it at the end. but you do what you want with your cilantro. have at it. if you can remember to.

now, this next recipe could make someone fall in love with you. i've never actually seen it happen, but i sense that it possesses the power to do so. if anyone wants to test that theory and get back to me then please do so. this recipe is less a recipe and more pure alchemy. i know chocolate mixed with spice is not a new idea, but every time i have a slice of this cake (and i don't care for cake but like the other chocolate cake i always have some of this) it feels like the first time i discovered that chocolate and spice mixed together is pure genius. and pure bliss. plus, it's vegan!

oh, god i have to say, the vegans i have made this for just go crazy for it. no marriage proposals or declarations of undying love crazy, but there is that gleam in their collective eye and a moment or two fraught with intense pleasure that threatens to spill over onto the baker. or, they just really like it and i'm imagining the whole thing because i need more excitement in my life. really could go either way.

i have to say i have no idea where i got this it's been so long. and i really wish i could show you the actual paper the recipe is written down on because it's fabulous. wrinkled and fading with a gob of dried batter on the top and some other gob of something dried on the bottom. i can barely read it. and i really should recopy it. but where's the fun in that?

Mexican Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup canola oil
1 TBS balsamic vinegar*
1 TBS vanilla extract

1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup sweetened cocoa powder
6 TBS water

preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

lightly coat an 8 inch springform pan with vegetable oil.

combine all. (okay, that's what i wrote down originally but let's tweak this a bit shall we? combine the dry ingredients first, then mix in the wet. okay. that's better.)

bake 25-30 minutes until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. (again, that's what is written down, but i find sometimes it can take longer than this.)

cool 10 minutes in pan, then completely on cooling rack.

to make the glaze whisk the sugar and the cocoa together, then add the water in one tablespoon at a time. (i find that sometimes i need less water, just add until it's the consistency you like.)

pour the glaze over the cooled cake on the rack and move to serving plate or stand. (okay, that's what is written, but it's harder than it sounds!!! first of all, the glaze is gonna drip down so make sure there's something underneath the rack. plus, moving an already glazed cake is tricky business. sometimes i do it on the rack and move it with one of those big dough spatulas, and sometimes i do it on the plate and catch the excess by putting strips of parchment under and along the bottom of the cake. glaze and then pull the parchment strips out and your plate is clean. mostly.)

cook's notes:
*this is the 'secret' ingredient. meaning this is what's in there that makes everything sing and that no one can ever put their finger on or guess. drives people crazy. especially when i won't tell them what it is when they ask.




gerg said...

funny you are posting about cooking. the wife is away for the weekend and i'm spending my evenings cooking indian food. so far they are ok. but i think cooking is a bit like mathematics. when you get it you don't have to remember anything. it takes me forever to cook this stuff. not so much the meat dishes because meat is much more simple than a tasty vegaterian dish.
i made Methi Malai Mutter, Aloo Gobi, and Toor Dal soup. All are vegatarian. Again because that (for me) is a huge challenge and i'm trying to get my head around certain indian spices, like asfetidia, mango powder and black powder. funny. black powder is a favorite of veggie heads because it adds a very strong meat tone. link:

x. said...

i think you're right, greg, about it being like mathematics. there's definitely a formula. beyond that it just takes passion and a little intuition.

all those dishes sound really great. and those spices you mention are fairly 'esoteric' for the average american cook and palate. though they MAKE a dish, that's for sure.

i seem to remember a fabulous indian dish you made once upon a time, so i'm certain while it may take forever, the end result is probably fabulous.